Bill Knorr relies on decades of networking contacts to grow USExploration Equipment Co.’s client base.

Bill Knorr relies on decades of networking contacts to grow USExploration Equipment Co.’s client base.Every successful startup enterprise needs a few breaks early on to help get an entrepreneur a shot. Oftentimes, those breaks come from clients willing to give a fledgling operation their business despite the lack of a track record in the marketplace.

When USExploration Equipment Co. opened in January 2002 as a manufacturer and distributor of geotechnical equipment, the company relied on the decades of expertise and goodwill in the industry of Vice President Bill Knorr. Three decades’ worth of clients followed Knorr to USExploration Equipment despite its novelty, and they have stuck with the company ever since.

“The big break that we got – in addition to the nuts and bolts and hard work involved in starting a manufacturing business in early 2002 – were customers who said, ‘We’ll give you a chance,’” Knorr says. “‘We don’t
know anything about USExploration Equipment, but we’ve known you long enough to give you a chance.’”

USExploration Equipment distributes and manufactures geotechnical and environmental equipment for clients throughout the United States and the world. The company’s product line includes weld-on-style ring bits for casing, hollow- and solidstem augers, coring equipment, drill rods, soil sampling tools, PVC casing and screen, direct push equipment, well enclosure options, and rig repair parts.

Partnering Up

While Knorr understands how priceless a good business relationship can be over the course of a career, it takes a like-minded individual to stay in touch through job changes and company startups. Knorr has a kindred spirit in Kris Bickford, owner of WellTech Products.

WellTech Products – based in Macungie, Pa. – and USExploration Equipment formed a sales and distribution partnership in January 2012 that expanded each company’s product offerings. Also, with USExploration’s headquarters in Indiana and WellTech in Pennsylvania, the partnership bolsters each company’s presence in new geographic regions since the companies sandwich the Utica and Marcellus shale oil and gas plays.

“The big break that we got – in addition to the nuts and bolts and hard work involved in starting a manufacturing business in early 2002 – were customers who said, ‘We’ll give you a chance.’” - Bill Knorr, president

“We are able to give USExploration a better presence in the northeast market, and we’re able to give a better presence in the Midwest and western markets of the United States,” Bickford says.

Although they reunited just two years ago, Bickford and Knorr have worked together for more than 10 years. Bickford says the pair had another manufacturer/ distributor relationship with a company he previously managed.

This partnership already is paying dividends for both companies. Bickford says WellTech’s business increased by 20 percent in 2013, and he expects that success to continue this year. USExploration grew 33 percent year over year almost entirely on the growth of new line of weld-on casing shoes introduced mid-2013.

The Shale Business

In the last year, USExploration has expanded specifically into the oil and gas sector by manufacturing weld-on casing shoes. Penetrating this market – specifically when shale oil and natural gas is a growing market – is an obvious choice.

“We have a very small piece of it, but we plan on leveraging that and taking more in 2014 because we think it is our biggest growth opportunity,” Knorr says.

So far, USExploration and WellTech are manufacturing a standard line of 5/8-inch-wide casing shoes and a complete line of 1-1/8-inch-wide-and-larger casing shoes for conductor, surface and production casing applications.

After just a year of working with clients operating in the shale plays, Knorr has learned that quality performance and quick turnaround times mean everything in this industry.

As long as USExploration delivers what is needed when it is needed, it can maintain this market share.

“If you call me today and you need something special, you might give me a couple days to make it, but not a couple weeks,” Knorr says. “We learned quickly that if we could say ‘yes’ to customers and deliver, we’d have a relationship to hang our hat on.”

Aside customized specs, demands from customers operating in the shale plays can range from overnight deliveries to trekking across numerous states. USExploration also has learned that it can raise its price points accordingly as long as it delivers on what it promises.

“Sometimes, that means working on Saturday, or driving to a customer in Ohio or Pennsylvania in the middle of the night,” Knorr says. “We can charge a price for that that is fair to us and the manufacture by the measure of the opportunity that is in front of us.”

Knorr has no doubts that opportunities in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays will help USExploration Equipment grow its business for the foreseeable future.

The company also expects to expand into the other shale regions of the United States.

Because the oil and natural gas industries are so robust in these regions, Knorr believes USExploration will not need to grab a significant amount of market share to experience success.

“You don’t have to get a big chunk of that business to get a good year under your belt,” Knorr says. “But this has injected a new level of energy in the business, and it is fun to see if you can answer the bell when the bell rings.”

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